On leave with my family.
For the passage of rivers, each army corps had a pontoon-train with a detachment of engineers, and, on reaching a river, the leading infantry division was charged with the labor of putting it down. Generally the single pontoon-train could provide for nine hundred feet of bridge, which sufficed; but when the rivers were very wide two such trains would be brought together, or the single train was supplemented by a trestle- bridge, or bridges made on crib-work, out of timber found near the place. The pontoons in general use were skeleton frames, made with a hinge, so as to fold back and constitute a wagon-body. In this same wagon were carried the cotton canvas cover, the anchor and chains, and a due proportion of the balks, cheeses, and lashings. All the troops became very familiar with their mechanism and use, and we were rarely delayed by reason of a river, however broad. On the whole, I would prefer the skeleton frame and canvas cover to any style of pontoon that I have ever seen.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE JAMES, Richmond, Va., June 7, 1865.
Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
SIR: I have just received the Army and Navy Gazette of May 30, containing an official publication of Major-General Sherman’s letters of May 9 and 26, with other papers on the same subject, parts of which had been previously published in the newspapers. In these letters my official conduct which are incorrect and entirely unjustified by the facts of the case.
First. He charges that I encroached upon his military command by directing a portion of my troops to march upon Greensborough in North Carolina. By direction of the President, I was on the 19th of April last assigned to the “command of the Military Division of the James, which included such parts of North Carolina as was not occupied by the command of Major-General Sherman. ” At the time my troops were ordered to Greensborough General Sherman’s troops did not occupy that part of North Carolina. It was occupied by the enemy, and consequently within my command, as defined by General Orders, Numbers 71, of the War Department. But whether or not Greensborough, or any part of North Carolina, was in my command, General Sherman’s remarks are equally without justification. On the 22nd of April Lieutenant-General Grant notified me that Sherman’s arrangements had been disapproved and orders given to resume hostilities and directed me to move my troops on Danville and Greensborough, precisely as I did move them, there to await his further orders. My instructions to Generals Meade, Sheridan, and Wright were just such instructions as General Grant had directed me to give. The offense, or whatever he may please to call it, if any there was, of marching my troops within territory claimed by General Sherman, was not mine, but General Grant’s, and all the which he has directed upon me for that act must fall upon the general-in-chief.
Second. General Sherman charges that by marching my troops into North Carolina I violated his truce, which he was bound to enforce even at the cost of many lives by a collision of our respective armies. General Sherman had never sent me his truce. I had never seen it and did not know its terms or conditions. I only knew that his truce or “arrangement”, whatever it was, had been disapproved and set aside by the President, and General Grant, in ordering the movement of my troops, simply notified me of this fact and of the renewal of hostilities. Even if Sherman’s truce had been binding on me, which if was not, I had no knowledge of the clause relating to forty-eight hours’ notice. It is strange that he should seek to bind me by conditions of the existence of which I was ignorant, and he had taken no measures to inform me. But even had I know them I could not have acted otherwise than I did. I simply carried out the orders of my superior officer, who had seen the truce and knew its terms. If General Sherman was, under the circumstances, justified in stopping the movements of my troops, even by destroying the commands of General Sheridan and General Wright, the responsibility of this sacrifice of human life must have rested either upon General Sherman or upon General Grant, for I simply obeyed the orders of the latter in regard to these movements.
General Sherman reflects on me for not going in person to violate, as he is pleased to call it, a truce which he “was bound in honor to defend and maintain,” “even at the cost of many lives”, and upon the marching powers of the troops which I sent into North Carolina. In reply to this I can only say that I was not ordered to go with these troops, but to send them under their commanders to certain points, there to await further orders from Lieutenant-General Grant, precisely as I directed. The troops were mostly selected by General Grant, not by me, and as he had commanded them for a year he probably knew something of their capacity for marching and whether or not they would march their legs off “to catch the treasure for their own use. ”
Third. Again, General Sherman complains that my orders of April 26, to push forward against Johnston’s army, were given at the very time I knew that that army was surrendering to him.
In making this statement ho forgets time and circumstances. He must have known that I did not have and could not possibly have had at that time any official information of any new arrangements between him and Johnston for the surrender of the latter’s army. Neither General Sherman nor any one else could have sent me such official information otherwise than by sea, which would have required several days. I only knew from General Grant that Sherman’s “arrangements” had been disapproved, that orders had been given to resume hostilities, and that I was directed by him to push forward my troops to Greensborough, where they would receive further orders. All other information from North Carolina came from rebel sources.
Fourth. The burden of General Sherman’s complaint on this subject is that I ordered Generals Sheridan and Wright to push forward their troops as directed by General Grant, “regardless of any orders from any one except General Grant”. This was simply carrying out the spirit of my instructions from General Grant. He had notified me that orders had been given to resume hostilities, and had directed me to send certain troops to Greensborough to await his further orders. As these troops approached the boundaries of North Carolina, Johnston, Beauregard, and other rebel officers tried, on the alleged grounds of arrangements with Sherman, to stop the movements ordered by General Grant. When informed of this I directed my officers to execute the commands which General Grant had given to me, regardless of orders of Grant himself. I respectfully submit that I could not have done less without neglecting my duty.
Fifth. General Sherman sneers at any sending troops from the direction of Burkeville and Danville against Davis in North Carolina, as “hardy worthy of” my “military education and genius.” However ridiculous General Sherman may consider these movements, they were made precisely as General Grant had directed them.
Sixth. He complains that I did not notify him in regard to Davis and his stolen treasure. For the reason that I had no communication open to him. My most direct way of communication with him was through the Department at Washington, and I sent all information to the Department as soon as it was received.
However “absurd” General Sherman may have considered the information, it was given by some of the most respectable and reliable business men in Richmond through a gentleman whose character and position would prevent me from pronouncing his statements “absurd”, and of saying, without examination, “I don’t believe a word of the treasure story.”
Seventh. In order to sustain his position that the movements of my troops, ordered by General Grant, were in violation of his truce which I was bound to observe even without knowing its terms, and that he would have been justified to resist “even at the cost of many lives”, General Sherman refers to a chapter of International Law. His reference is most pointedly against his positions and doctrines, and the case given in illustration in Section 4 was one of which General Sherman was personally cognizant. In that case a subordinate commander refused to be bound a truce of his superior commanding another department. General Sherman was not even my superior. I contend that all my orders were justifiable by the laws of war and military usage, even if they had not been directed by superior authority.
Eighth. General Sherman says that General Grant “reached in time to countermand General Halleck’s orders and prevent his violating my truce”. This is not true. General Grant neither disapproved nor countermanded any orders of mine, nor was there at that time any truce. It had ceased by General Grant’s orders to resume hostilities, and the subsequent surrender of Johnston’s army, of which he then notified me, and recalled a part of the troops which he had directed me to send to Danville and Greensborough.
Ninth. There is but one other point in General Sherman’s official* complaint that I deem it necessary to notice. I refer to the suggestion made to you in regard to orders to Generals Thomas and Wilson for preventing the escape of Davis and his cabinet. Although these officers were the nominal command of General Sherman, yet after he left Altana they received their instructions and orders from yourself and General Grant direct, not through General Sherman. This is recognized and provided for by the regulations of the War Department and has been practiced for years. I have transmitted hundreds of orders in this way and General Sherman was cognizant of the fact. The movements of General Thomas, Stoneman, Wilson, A. J. Smith, &c., while within General Sherman’s general command have been directed in this way for more that six months. In suggesting the orders be sent to these officers directly, and not through General Sherman, I suggested no departure from well-established official channels; but even if I had the responsibility of adopting that course must rest upon the authority who sent the orders. if his complaint is directed against the from of the suggestion, I can only say that I was innocent of any intended offense. My telegram was hurriedly written, intended for yourself, not the public, and had reference to the state of facts as reported to me. It was reported that orders purporting to come from General Sherman had been received through rebel lines of General Wilson to withdraw from Macon, release his prisoners, and that all hostilities should cease. These orders threw open the door for the escape of Davis and his party. This I knew was contradictory to the wishes and orders of the Government, but I had no means of knowing whether or not Sherman had been so informed. I at the time had no communication with or with General Grant, and I was not aware that either could communicate with our officers in the West except through rebel authorities, who of course could not be relied on. I repeat that my suggestion had reference only to the facts and wishes of the Government as known to me at the time, and was intended in no respect to reflect upon or be disrespectful to General Sherman. If I had been able to communicate with General Sherman, or had know at the time the condition of affairs in North Carolina, there would have been no necessary or occasion for any suggestion to you, and most probably none would have been made. With these remarks I respectfully submit that General Sherman’s report, so far as he refers to me, is unjust, unkind, and contrary to military usage, and that his statements are contrary to the real facts of the case. I beg leave further to remark that I have in no way, shape, or manner criticized or reflected upon General Sherman’s course in North Carolina, or upon his truce, or, as General Grant styles it, “arrangement” with Johnston and Breckinridge, but have simply acted upon the orders, instructions, and expressed wishes of my superiors as communicated to me and as I understood them.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK, Major-General